Hundreds of police were searching Germany’s Black Forest on Monday in a manhunt for an armed loner described as the “Forest Rambo”.
Helicopters and sniffer dog teams were deployed in the search for after the fugitive disarmed four police officers and stole their handguns.
Police warned the 31-year-old, named as Yves Rausch, is “violent and carrying several firearms” and asked locals to stay indoors as much as possible, avoid forest areas and on no account to pick up hitchhikers.
Schools and kindergartens were closed in the local town of Oppenau, roads were blocked and a no-fly zone was ordered over the search area.
A police spokesman said Mr Rausch, a loner well known in the local area, was undergoing a “psychological crisis”.
“This is an exceptional situation for our small community,” Uwe Gaiser, the mayor of Oppenau said. “I just hope that they can find him quickly and that nobody gets hurt.”
Police were first alerted to the situation on Sunday, when a local resident called to report a strange man dressed in camouflage gear and armed with a bow and arrow was sleeping rough at an abandoned forest hut just outside the town.
Four officers were dispatched to investigate. Mr Rausch initially cooperative but turned on the officers without warning, according to a police spokesman.
“Suddenly he pulled a gun and threatened the officers. They had no time to react to the dangerous situation,” the spokesman said. He ordered the officers to lay their weapons on the ground and they complied “to prevent a worse outcome”.
Mr Rausch then fled into the forest. The police officers escaped without injury.
The fugitive is now believed to be armed with the four officers’ weapons, his own handgun, a bow and arrow and a knife.
Although no one has been injured so far, the four police handguns contained 64 rounds of ammunition, prompting fears of an extended shoot-out if Mr Rausch is cornered.
A local man described as “extremely odd” by his former landlord, Mr Rausch has reportedly been living in the forest for several weeks after he was evicted for failing to pay his rent.
A police photo showed a bald slightly built man with a goatee beard and glasses wearing a black T shirt
Around 5 feet 7 inches tall, he is reportedly well known in the area. He is described as “member of the Goth scene” and was often seen wearing a long black coat.
He has a police record for weapons offences, and according to local press reports served a prison sentence for firing an arrow at a former girlfriend.
A former railway worker, he lived in the attic flat above a local inn until he was evicted last year.
His former landlord told the German press police had found a secret shooting range when they searched the flat.
“He dresses very conspicuously,” the former landord, who was not named, said. “Overall he is an extremely odd person.”
The area is usually popular with hikers and mountain bikers at this time of year. Mr Rausch, who grew up in the district, is said to know his way around the densely wooded hillsides better than most.
Police are using thermal imaging in an attempt to find him. But the search area is extensive: there are more than 14,000 acres of forest in Oppenau district alone.